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Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is encouraging people in Fife and the central belt to help to control grey squirrels by participating in volunteer schemes that support landscape scale community action.

Landowners or those who have a garden should consider controlling grey squirrels such as advocated by the Eastern Lowlands Red Squirrel Group. This is best achieved through live trapping and humane dispatch. Activity like this would help halt the northward march of a disease that kills red squirrels.

The squirrel pox diseases is lethal for reds but does not affect grey squirrels, which act as carriers.

The call comes after a red squirrel that had died from the squirrel pox was found on the northern edge of Dunfermline early in April.

Colin Edwards, Head of Environment with FLS said;

“This is one of the harsh realities of nature conservation work.

“Sometimes in order to protect one species, you have to take control measures to restrict the spread or limit the population of others.

“In the case of invasive non-native species we and many of our land management partners actively take steps to eradicate the harmful invaders. That could be the tidal wave of rhododendron that threatens to engulf Scotland’s Atlantic rainforests, or species like the American Signal Cray fish.

“Unfortunately, with tree diseases we have to fell trees – sometimes before they are infected - in order to slow the spread of the disease. A similar approach is required if we are to protect our native red squirrels from the squirrel pox.”

FLS is a participating member of Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, which has been promoting and coordinating strategic  control measures in south Scotland, the Central Lowlands, and in Aberdeenshire.

However, FLS has also been working to create ‘woodland oases’ that bridge gaps between known red squirrel hot-spots to help them increase their range across the whole of the north of Scotland.

The recent finding on the northern edge of Dunfermline indicates that the squirrel pox disease is steadily making progress northwards as it travels through the grey squirrel population.

Mr Edwards added;

“A lot or people find grey squirrels antics entertaining and attractive.

“But unless a cure or treatment for this disease is found, people are going to have to come to terms with the fact that difficult decisions have to be made.”

The Eastern Lowland’s Red Squirrel Group, which works in partnership with the volunteer-led Fife Red Squirrel Group) is leading on local efforts.

Hollie Sutherland, Project Coordinator for the  Eastern Lowlands Red Squirrel Group, said;

"We are looking for support from woodland owners surrounding Dunfermline, asking them to let us know if they already manage grey squirrels and if they would like support or advice on removing the invasive non-native species, in order to protect our now at greater risk native red squirrels in the area."

"We fully support the FLS in their aims to help protect our native red squirrels".

Those interested in volunteering with survey and/or grey squirrel control efforts in the Dunfermline area can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information on steps you can take to help protect red squirrels, visit Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels or Fife Red Squirrel Group

Notes to editors

  1. Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.

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  3. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Media Manager, Forestry and Land Scotland Media Office 07785 527590 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.